Berlin Opera Night
Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin/Donald Runnicles
rec. live, Deutsche Oper Berlin, 11 November 2011, 18th Festive Opera Gala of the German AIDS-Foundation
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Track-List at end of review
EUROARTS DVD 2059008 [75:00]
When we think that pharmacology has solved the AIDS epidemic it is to forget that the disease is rife in the less privileged undeveloped world. A painful wasting death is all too often the only outcome. The tradition has grown up in Berlin of raising money for the AIDS cause by a charity concert. All the performers here, and many of the audience, wear the AIDS support ribbon. I do not know if the participants give their services free. Certainly the audience pay good money and come to see, and be seen. The opening shows the arrival of the black ties on the men and the haute couture on the ladies who, while not quite competing with their counterparts at The Oscars, show plenty of their assets (CH.1).
The opening music (CH.1) is billed as the Overture to Rossini’s Semiramide with Donald Runnicles’ sheep-like locks bobbing up and down to match the composer’s musical verve. This overture used to feature as a concert-piece and lasts over ten minutes. Here it is but a sample, albeit allowing composer, orchestra and conductor to set out their virtuous stall. Thereafter, we move straight into the operatic pieces performed by a veritable bevy of singers along with the chorus of The Deutsche Opera. If Runnicles’ hair could have done with a cut, the immaculate locks of Dalibor Jenis would have graced many a lady. Regrettably, his Slavic tone and Italian does not grace Verdi’s Il balen from Il Trovatore (CH.2) any more than Francesco Demuro’s can belto tenor does justice to the well-known tenor aria from the composer’s Luisa Miller (CH.4). In between these two men comes the great pleasure of a class singer in a real rarity, the American mezzo Vivica Genaux. In a multi-coloured silk tunic top she reveals a voice of power, colour and vocal grace as befits Meyerbeer’s stylish Emma di Resburgo.
After the brass introduction the chorus of the Deutschen Oper Berlin show off their skills in Wagner (CH.5). Their quality made me regret that this was their sole contribution on this disc. However, it was followed by more Verdi with some nice phrasing from Adrianne Pieczonka in Elvira’s act 1 aria from Ernani (CH.6). After a rather strange rendition, and somewhat idiosyncratic behaviour, both on the soprano’s part, of the Flower Duet from Lakmé (CH.7) it is full-on quality from another young American, Kristin Lewis. She sings a lovely O patria mia from Aida (CH.8). The bass, Alex Esposito is a tower of vocal strength in Rossini’s Accusata di furto from The Thieving Magpie as Nanetta’s father worries about her fate (CH.10). Just to show that American-trained singers do not have it all their own way, the Russian Anna Smirnova gives indication that a welcome successor to Olga Borodina is just around the corner. Her tonal colour and vocal flair are notable indeed as Princess Eboli curses her gifts in O don fatale from Don Carlos (CH.11).
Just what tenor singing can be about is well represented by the lyric and flexibly-voiced Antonio Poli. He caresses the phrases in Gounod’s take on the Romeo and Juliet story (CH.9). Teodor Llincai exhibits unforced tone and graceful phrasing in Puccini’s E lucevan le stele from the last act of Tosca (CH.12). The latter contribution makes a fine end to the solo singing. I will draw a veil over the miked last item, Time to say goodbye. It offers even more unusual behaviour from the soprano (CH.13).

Robert J Farr


Gioachino ROSSINI (1792 -1868)
Semiramide: Overture
La Gazza Ladra. Accusata di furto. Alex Esposito (bass)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
II Trovatore
Il balen del suo sorriso
Dalibor Jenis (baritone) [4.33]
Luisa Miller:
Quando le sere al placido
Francesco Demuro (tenor) [5.43]
Aida: O patria mia
Kristin Lewis (soprano) [6.37]
Ernani. Surta e la notte (Ernani involami
Adrianne Pieczonka (soprano) [5.38]
Don Carlos. O don fatale
Anna Smirnova (mezzo) [4.25]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Emma di Resburgo. Ah ciel pietoso.
Vivica Genaux (mezzo) [7.23]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tannhauser: Arrival of the Guests. (Chorus) [6.04]
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Lakmé: Flower Duet
Vivica Genaux (mezzo) and Simone Kermes (soprano) [6.08]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Romeo et Juliette. Ah! Leve-toi, soleil
Antonio Poli (tenor) [4.02]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Tosca. E lucevan le stele
Teodor Llincai (tenor.) [3.01]
Francesco SARTORI
Time to say goodbye [4:01]

A worthy cause and a competitive price bring some good singing in a varied programme that will appeal to opera-lovers. 

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